Unit for Business Ethics and Public Integrity

Centre for Applied Ethics

Unit for Business Ethics and Public Integrity

MPhil in Applied Ethics (Business Ethics)


Inquiries: Prof Minka Woermann


The MPhil in Applied Ethics with specialisation in Business Ethics is a one year degree consisting of both a structured class component (90 credits) and a research component (90 credits). The focus of the degree is on the ethical issues that characterise the current economic and business environment, as well as on the particular challenges that face Africa and South Africa.

The programme is designed to equip professionals in government, business, non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations with the knowledge, skills and strategies needed to address moral issues successfully in their fields of expertise.

The broad themes covered in the programme include the following (this list of themes is subject to change):

Contact session one

  • Business ethics and its basis (Prof Woermann)
    • Introduces the field of business ethics, the nature of ethical decision-making and the goals of business ethic
    • Explores the nature of business and pertinent challenges to conducting ethical business.
  • Corporate responsibility (Prof Rossouw)
    • Distinguishes between, but also explains the relationships among, the following family of concepts:
      • Corporate Sustainability
      • Corporate Social Responsibility
      • Corporate Citizenship
      • Sustainable development
      • Socially Responsible Investment, and
      • Corporate Governance
  • Ethics and corporate governance (Prof Rossouw)
    • Interrogates the King IV Report’s view of the moral status and moral obligations of corporations
    • Addresses the governance of organisational ethics
  • Codes of ethics and ethical culture (Prof Rossouw)
    • Introduces codes of ethics
    • Investigates the constituents of ethical organisational culture
    • Investigates the impact of organisational culture on corporate and individual ethical behaviour
  • Sustainability (Prof Woermann)
    • Explores the nature of business sustainability in complex times
    • Introduces key issues and approaches to environmental sustainability
    • Explores economic sustainability at the hand of a case study
  • Corporate moral agency (Prof Woermann)
    • Introduces the debate on the moral status of the corporation
    • Addresses corporate moral agency from the perspective of complexity theory

Contact session two:

  • Business ethics in the African context (Prof Woermann)
    • Provides an overview of the developments, challenges and opportunities for business ethics in Africa
    • Introduces an Ubuntu-inspired reading of stakeholder theory
    • Investigates the moral justifiability of affirmative action from the perspective of distributive justice theories
  • Leadership  (Prof Woermann)
    • Introduces leadership theory
    • Interrogates the relationship between leadership and values
    • Analyses psychopathic leadership at the hand of a case study
  • Ethics in the organisation (Dr Engelbrecht)
    • Explores ethical dilemmas and decision-making in an organisational context
    • Analyses moral disengagement and organisational wrongdoing
    • Introduces ethics management (from codes to committees)
  • Emerging issues (TBA)
    • This section explores new emerging issues that impact on the field of business ethics. Current topics include the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Ethics of Big Data and the impact of COVID-19 on business ethics.

Entry requirements

The requirements for entry into the Programme are a post-graduate qualification for which candidates must have attained an average of at least 60%, as well as an academic background in Philosophy and/or Applied Ethics. Candidates wishing to apply for 2021 should do so via the following link: http://www0.sun.ac.za/pgstudies/application-to-su-1.html.

If you are interested in this Programme, but do not meet the requirements, please see our Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Ethics Programme. This Diploma Programme is designed to facilitate entry into the MPhil in Applied Ethics.

Programme Structure

The structure of the Programme consists of two contact sessions (around the beginning and the middle of the year), supported by independent study. For the course component, students are required to submit assignments and write an exam. For the research component, students are required to write a 90 credit thesis, in consultation with their supervisors.

If the situation around COVID-19 does not allow for contact teaching, teaching will be fully online. This will involve recorded lectures, real-time discussion via zoom or MS Teams, online peer discussions and structured self-study.